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The new director of Florida A&M University's historic Black archives says understanding the past is key to understanding the present

A white two story building with four columns is visible behind a large cast iron bell and a few trees. The building has a sign above the door that says Black Archives.
Patrick Sternad
WFSU Public Media
Timothy A. Barber says he's excited to return as director to the place where he learned to be an archivist.

The historic Black archives on Florida A&M University’s campus has a new director. Timothy A. Barber says he hopes to use his position to help visitors understand how history impacts their lives today.

“Learning history teaches us how to discern lifestyles, how to discern issues. If you don’t know the history you’re doomed to repeat it. That’s just a valuable statement. And we see that in modern times where things are happening all over again and the issue that happens is that we treat these things that are happening as if it’s the first time. But there’s nothing new under the sun. It isn’t the first time," Barber says.

He believes understanding events of the past can help people navigate events in the present.

“If you understand history," he says, "if you understand what happened then you’ll kind of learn how to deal with what is happening now. It’s a transfer of learning. So what we want to do here at Meek-Eaton is teach people how to transfer that knowledge of past life into what’s happening today and use it as a tool to strengthen your trajectory forward."

Barber returned last month to the Meek-Eaton Black Archives Research Center and Museumwhere he was trained as a FAMU student. For the past 13 years, he has served as executive director of the Black Archives at the Historic Lyric Theater in Miami. He says he helped the Miami archives enter the 21st century by introducing new techniques and technology. When the job opened up at FAMU, Barber says he was excited about the idea of bringing similar initiatives to Tallahassee.

“After weighing the decision about what was happening here and what could I bring to the table to strengthen the organization that helped me be who I was, I made the decision that it was time to transition, it was time to, like LeBron [James] would say ‘take my talents to South Beach,’ but it would be take my talents to Tallahassee," Barber said.

Barber says he hopes to use connections he’s made over the years to attract new grants and funding to FAMU’s archives.

You'll have a chance to hear Barber talk more about the importance of ensuring history is not forgotten in WFSU Public Media’s upcoming podcast, Not So Black and White: A community’s divided history.

Follow @Regan_McCarthy

Regan McCarthy is the Assistant News Director for WFSU Public Media. Before coming to Tallahassee, Regan graduated with honors from Indiana University’s Ernie Pyle School of Journalism. She worked for several years for NPR member station WFIU in Bloomington, Ind., where she covered local and state government and produced feature and community stories.

Phone: (850) 645-6090 | rmccarthy@fsu.edu

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